Whitaker leaves the field in his wake

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The Independent Online
Michael Whitaker and Midnight Madness produced a turn of foot which no one could match when winning yesterday's Mercedes-Benz Prize on the opening day of the Aachen Nations Cup Show in Germany. It was their second successive win in this competition and they were runners-up in 1994.

Whitaker was second to go in a field of 71 horses, which would normally be considered a hopeless draw. But he whizzed round to such effect that Piet Raymakers, second for The Netherlands on Jewel's Amethyst, was 6.45sec slower. Close behind came Germany's Olympic champion, Ludger Beerbaum on Gaylord.

Midnight Madness has had a couple of weeks off since twisting his off- fore fetlock in St Gallen earlier this month. Assuming he remains sound he is likely to go to Atlanta as Whitaker's reserve horse.

Twostep, Whitaker's first choice, continues to progress since cracking two bones in his withers in February. He has jumped double clear rounds in Grand Prix competitions, finishing fourth in Luxembourg and third in Arnhem. Midnight Madness is expected to be in the British team for Friday's Nations Cup, with Twostep being saved for the Grand Prix on Sunday.

Ronnie Massarella, the British team manager, will not pick the Nations Cup team until tomorrow, but it seems likely his own horse, Orthos, now being ridden by Robert Smith, will be included. Yesterday Smith jumped the grey steadily in the Mannesmann contest and he was clear until making a single error going into the final double.

AACHEN NATIONS CUP SHOW: Mercedes-Benz Prize: 1 Midnight Madness (M Whitaker, GB) clear, 69.49sec; 2 Jewel's Amethyst (P Raymakers, Neth) clear, 75.94; 3 Gaylord (L Beerbaum, Ger) clear, 76.60. Scholler-Folien Prize: 1 Urioso du Manoir (P Delaveau, Fr) clear, 64.20; 2 Loro Piana Rosegarden (R Pessoa, Bra) clear, 66.40; 3 Capricieux (S van Paesschen, Bel) clear, 65.20. Mannesmann Prize: 1 May Day (A Bologni, It) clear, 63.18; 2 Ten Cate Edison (E Hendrix, Neth) clear, 71.85; 3 Ballerina (M Merschformann, Ger) clear, 76.25.